The Noisier Path { PLUS: Book Giveaway }


Catherine McNiel -Noisier Path3{Leave a thoughtful comment on this post to be entered to win the book, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline}

By Catherine McNiel | Twitter:@CatherineMcNiel

I was late for dinner, though thankfully no one looked up as I quietly pulled out my chair and sat down. Self-consciously I unfolded my napkin and took up my silverware. The room was so incredibly silent I could hear each tick … tock … of the clock on the wall; each chew-and-swallow reverberated across the room.

I had just arrived at a silent weekend retreat, leaving my husband and children at home. Wondering if others could hear me chewing is decidedly not my native dinnertime experience.

I’ve spent the past ten years repeating “Bottom or knees on the chair, please” at least a dozen times each meal, and “Can you ask again with good manners?” Well, no. That’s actually not true. I’m rarely that composed and polite in the din. Mealtime chaos with three young children gets me every time. So much noise, so much food on the face, on the clothes, on the floors. So many demands. So many needy children and exhausted parents.

But this? This meal is a spiritual oasis for sure. Taking slow, tiny, (hopefully) noiseless bites I look around the silent room. Oil lamps flicker in the low evening light. The window seat offers a view of the lovely meditation gardens outside. Lovely wall-hangings illustrate the spiritual benefits of silence, inviting us to Be Still. To simply Be Here.

Yes. My introverted, contemplative heart rises eagerly in agreement. Yes. Surely this is the stillness where God’s voice can be found. Surely this is the path for those who are serious about finding and following Him. After a decade of constant pouring out, of “adult-ing” in service to my children I’ve wound up dry and brittle, desperately in need of finding my center and that still, small voice in the solitude of silence.

My spirit longs to be “all-in” with God, and this path feels so … right. Worshipping Him here in quiet meditation seems so …doable. I wonder idly what would happen if I didn’t leave after the weekend. If I checked in for a week … a month … a year.

This is the thought that brings me to my senses.

What would happen? My children, precious sons and daughters made in the image of God and entrusted to my husband and I, would be bereft. Without me to tuck them in to bed, to hear their troubles and fears, to kiss their ouchies. Who would provide them with the food, shelter, and love needed to make it through childhood? Someone must.

Such a vivid imagination clarifies suddenly that this peacefulness is not as surely-spiritual as it appears. In short doses, it springs up as the miraculous oasis in the wilderness that restores me, yet I cannot linger here. I must go back into the loud-but-never-lonely world of caring for family. While monastery living is a sacred, blessed calling for some, others of us are called to an entirely different journey. While the paths are different, our sustenance along the way are the same—God’s presence.

Someone, someone, must accept the path of service, the path of chaos, the path of noise.

At least in this season, that someone is me.

This noisier path is the one most mothers are on. Our days are chock-full of serving, of pouring ourselves out that others might have life and health and strength. We need the moments and days to recharge, yes. But mostly, our calling, our God-given season, is to take the noisier path. It isn’t Plan B, as it feels to my weary spirit. It is the very place where God meets us.

My spirit breathed deeply of silence that lovely, nurturing weekend. My body and soul needed it, badly, and I eagerly drank in every drop. On the long, silent drive back home, I prepared myself for the onslaught of noise and chaos I knew awaited me—children, eager to see me, to tell me everything, desperately needing hugs, a bit tearful and whiney, full of complaints and quarrels after a few days off-kilter. Laundry that needed doing. Meals that needed planning. Work deadlines that loomed now two days closer.

This contemplative, introverted Mama doesn’t feel spiritual when I’m surrounded by this chaos of growing things, of creating and nurturing. I don’t feel that same certain centered peace that I associate with meeting God. But I know without a doubt that this noisier path is the one He has placed me on. For now, it is in the chaos and the noise, in the serving and pouring out, where I will find Him and where He continues to make me new.

This is His creation, after all. Making babies was His idea. Our Creator can’t be too surprised that raising children demands almost everything we have. We’re His children, too.

Thanks be to God.



We are so thrilled to have one copy of Catherine’s book to share with our readers. Share a comment on this post today until Friday at 10pm. (May 9—May 12, 2017) and enter to win a copy of Long Days of Small Things.

About Catherine:

Hi Res Author PhotoCatherine McNiel is the author of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress 2017). She writes to open eyes to God’s creative, redemptive work in each day—while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden. Connect with Catherine on Twitter, Facebook, or at